Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The (2011)
Release Date: December 21st, 2011 MPAA Rating: R
Director: David Fincher Actors: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson, Steven Berkoff
or the most part, David Fincher’s new adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is identical to the original film. A few minor substitutions work their way into the script, most notably with dialogue, physical characteristics, jobs, and bits of backstory that are added or excised; but the essential plot is still present. The use of spoken English is particularly helpful for American audiences (despite fouling up the logical side of printed materials, character nationality, and Epson/Mac product placement), and the use of familiar character actors aids sorting out the extensive assemblage of suspects. The sense of originality, uniqueness, and suspense has diminished, however, largely because of the sheer reach and popularity of the first theatrical adaptation.
Millennium Magazine journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is sued for libel when he prints a scathing article about billionaire industrialist hotshot Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Even though Mikael’s credibility is shot, the retired head of the Vanger Corporation approaches the investigator to research the murder of his 16-year-old great-niece, some 40 years earlier. Vanger is convinced it was someone in the family, most of who still live unsociably on an unfriendly island in Sweden. “I’m quickly losing track of who’s who,” Blomkvist comments, as the family is large and reclusive; providing information to a stranger is also not high on their priority list. Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a surveillance agent and researcher who provided investigative materials on Blomkvist to Vanger, is recruited by Mikael to aid him in his search for the culprit – believed to be a serial killer targeting Jewish women and performing ritualistic mutilations.
While the actors all perform admirably, especially those with more challenging, revealing roles (the striking character development and raw power of their actions being a particular highlight of the series of books), the unavoidable element that follows this take is the severity and extremeness of the sexual violence. It’s no less potent, even for viewers familiar with what happens, but more likely to incite disputation for no other reason than its basis as an American film (foreign films garner a certain leniency when depicting questionable sexual material). The studio is even trying to push the envelope with the poster art (one of which features nudity). While the novel is purposeful in its rendering and authenticity towards rape, coupled with abuse of power (more evident in the original title “Men Who Hate Women”), these moments are overwhelming on camera – to the point that the controversial scenes will likely take attention away from the murder mystery at hand. And the dark, cryptic, intense unraveling of clues is where the real thrills await. The white-knuckle climax is shocking, draining, and unexpected, wrapping up a thriller worthy of the cinematographic focus.
Perhaps most puzzling of all is the opening credits, which demonstrate a bizarre mixture of H.R. Giger’s art, Spider-Man’s enemy Venom, computer components, thick black oil, and the human anatomy, resembling a James Bond music video title sequence (James Bondage?). It doesn’t fit the rest of the movie, and instead of setting up a more gothic, disturbing, modern twist on author Stieg Larsson’s epic, it builds a greater rift in the deceptive normalcy of the initial settings. Trent Reznor’s accompanying score, with pulsing, artificial sounds and electronic beats, is much less sincere than the standard orchestral work more suited to crime pictures. Although the character development, with two extremely contrasting individuals and unrelated situations, is astounding (chiefly with the strong female protagonist of Salander), the separate nature of their stories feels even more distant. But that is insignificant compared to the intrusive expansion of the film’s denouement, which is noticeably longwinded, stuffed with details, and drags out the satisfaction of the big reveal and resolution for the killer. Whether or not this is more faithful to the novel, 2009’s foreign-language version was smarter to keep the immediacy and energy of the solution fresh by abridging the falling action.
– Mike Massie